From one ‘kababayan’ to another: NYPD Det. Cicero Coloma reaches out to Noel Quintana

Quintana, Coloma meeting for the first time.

By Cristina DC Pastor

A couple of weeks after Queens resident Noel Quintana was slashed across the face while riding a train, Detective Cicero Coloma of the NYC Asian Hate Crime Task Force reached out to him. Theirs was a touching story of  ‘kababayan’ extending a hand of sympathy and concern to another ‘kababayan.’

“I think at first he was shocked when I introduced myself to him because I was a Filipino NYPD detective and also because I spoke to him in Tagalog,” recalled Cicero who was born in Lucena City, the capital of Quezon province. “I felt that it was comforting for him to know that a fellow ‘kababayan’ was on his side and there to help him.”

Meeting Noel for the first time, Cicero’s first impression was that he was soft spoken, well mannered, and very polite. “He seemed like a nice, hardworking person who I can almost relate to as one of my own family members,” he said when interviewed by The FilAm. The two met in court right before he was about to testify in the grand jury.

After the attack on Noel, he said, the chief investigator had a good lead on the suspect within a couple of days. Cicero’s role was “focused mainly on emotional support for Noel and making sure he was aware of the progress in the investigation and with the court proceedings.” He also made him aware of victim compensation services provided by New York City and the District Attorney’s Office.

Subway attack survivor Noel Quintana
NYC Asian Hate Crime Task Force Det. Cicero Coloma

When Noel learned from the lead investigator the suspect was in custody, he seemed “relieved and grateful.”

“It was like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders and that somehow there was a closure to this awful incident,” said Cicero.

Task force

The Asian Hate Crime Task Force was formed by NYPD Deputy Inspector Stewart Loo in August 2020 – about five months after the coronavirus was detected in the U.S. and attacks on Asian Americans were on the rise.

“The main focus of the task force is to provide support to the investigative unit handling the case and to provide assistance to the victim. The task force helps to bridge the gap due to language and cultural differences,” said Cicero. “Each task force investigator is assigned to various units in the NYPD and are notified by the investigating unit of the incident for their assistance.”

Of an estimated 150 Filipino Americans in the NYPD, three — including Cicero — are members of the task force, all of them qualified Tagalog interpreters for the NYPD. “We expect to have more Filipinos in the future,” he said.

Becoming acquainted with Noel, Cicero reflected on the viciousness of the attack against the Filipino accountant. He said, “I am heartbroken and outraged. In my 13 years as a cop and from what I can remember growing up, I’ve never seen anything of this magnitude towards Asians. No person regardless of race should have to deal with this. People like Noel and the other victims remind me of my own family members and knowing that this could have been them angers me.”

Cicero joined the NYPD in July 2008. He received his Associate in Applied Science in Criminal Justice from Bergen Community College, completing a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice from John Jay College of Criminal Justice shortly after. He is currently a detective assigned to Manhattan South Narcotics Major Case Squad, on top of being a detective on the task force.

In July 2020, Cicero and his wife welcomed a baby girl. He thought the country may be going through a difficult time right now, but voiced optimism “things will get better.”

Forever Business Owner: Nieva Quezon Burdick

© The FilAm 2021

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